Thursday, July 27, 2006

Power industry tries to buy science on global warming

An eye-opening story has just broken on Associated Press. It involves efforts by the electric power industry to underwrite a known "skeptic" on global warming.

It is a real smoking gun:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/27/AR2006072701058.html

Utilities Paying Global Warming Skeptic
By SETH BORENSTEIN
The Associated PressThursday, July 27, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Coal-burning utilities are passing the hat for one of the few remaining scientists skeptical of the global warming harm caused by industries that burn fossil fuels.
Pat Michaels _ Virginia's state climatologist, a University of Virginia professor and senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute _ told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists' global warming research. So last week, a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign to help him out, raising at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.


The Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo., gave Michaels $100,000 and started the fund-raising drive, said Stanley Lewandowski, IREA's general manager. He said one company planned to give $50,000 and a third plans to give Michaels money next year.
"We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists," Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to launch a counterattack on "alarmist" scientists and specifically Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth."
Michaels and Lewandowski are open about the money and see no problem with it. Some top scientists and environmental advocates call it a clear conflict of interest. Others view it as the type of lobbying that goes along with many divisive issues.

"These people are just spitting into the wind," said John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "The fact is that the drumbeat of science and people's perspectives are in line that the climate is changing."

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington advocacy group, said: "This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda."

Donald Kennedy, an environmental scientist who is former president of Stanford University and current editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Science, said skeptics such as Michaels are lobbyists more than researchers.

"I don't think it's unethical any more than most lobbying is unethical," he said. He said donations to skeptics amounts to "trying to get a political message across."

Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including "Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media." However, he also writes research articles published in scientific journals.

In 1998, Michaels blasted NASA scientist James Hansen, accusing the godfather of global warming science of being way off on his key 1988 prediction of warming over the next 10 years. But Hansen and other scientists said Michaels misrepresented the facts by cherry-picking the worst (and least likely) of three possible outcomes Hansen presented to Congress. The temperature rise that Hansen said was most likely to happen back then was actually slightly lower than what has occurred.

Michaels has been quoted by major newspapers more than 150 times in the past two years, according to a Lexis-Nexis database search. He and Lewandowski told The Associated Press that their side of global warming isn't getting out and that the donations resulted from a speech Michaels gave to the Western Business Roundtable last fall. Michaels said the money will help pay his staff.

Holdren, a Harvard environmental science and technology professor, said skeptics such as Michaels "have had attention all out of proportion to the merits of their arguments."
"Last I heard, anybody can ask a scientific question," said Michaels, who holds a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It is a very spirited discussion that requires technical response and expertise."

Other scientific fields, such as medicine, are more careful about potential conflicts of interests than the energy, environmental and chemical fields, where it doesn't raise much of an eyebrow, said Penn State University bioethicist Arthur Caplan.

Earlier this month, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced a crackdown on researchers who do not disclose drug company ties related to their research. Yet days later, the journal's editor said she had been misled because the authors of a new study had not revealed industry money they got that posed a conflict.

Three top climate scientists said they don't accept money from private groups. The same goes for the Web site realclimate.org, which has long criticized Michaels. "We don't get any money; we do this in our free time," said Realclimate.org contributor Stefan Rahmstorf, an ocean physics scientist at Potsdam University in Germany.

Lewandowski, who said he believes global warming is real just not as big a problem as scientists claim, acknowledged this is a special interest issue. He said the bigger concern is his 130,000 customers, who want to keep rates low, so coal-dependent utilities need to prevent any taxes or programs that penalize fossil fuel use. He said his effort is more aimed at stopping carbon dioxide emission taxes and limits from Congress, something he believes won't happen during the Bush administration.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

EPA career staff: agency should consider a tougher smog standard

EPA’s career staff argued today that the current national standard for smog may not be adequate to protect public health – particularly the health of kids with asthma.

This EPA assessment confirms that smog is a serious public health problem. It confirms that we need to make further reductions in smog to protect kids with asthma and other vulnerable groups.

The key material is in chapter 6 at this link:
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/data/o3sp_2d_chs1-8_7-25-06.pdf

The EPA “staff paper” notes that adverse health effects have been found when people are breathing air at today’s legally acceptable levels.

The money line in the smog assessment: “staff concludes that consideration might primarily focus on an O3 level of 0.07 ppm,
with a range of forms from the third- through fifth-highest daily maximum 8-hr
average concentration.” [the current standard is 0.08] --from page 6-44

Health and environmental groups are likely to press for even tougher standards.

The California state standard is 0.07, though – unlike the federal standard – it does not permit several dirty-air days a year. The World Health Organization has recommended guidelines of 0.05.

EPA is under a court order to propose a decision on this matter by March 2007, and to make a final decision by December 2007.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Science update: EPA concedes new studies show health damage from low levels of particle soot

It is a classic clash of science and politics, and it is coming down to the wire.

Even though the U.S. EPA is under a court order to announce final particle soot standards by late September, the real decision will be made very soon. (The political appointees want to be at the beach in August just like the rest of us.)

So what does EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, himself a scientist, do?

The science is overwhelming that EPA should set tougher new soot standards. But this White House has not exactly been a devotee of good science when it comes to decisions that could cost industry money. (See: global warming debate.)

One thing is for sure: a new EPA compilation of very recent science shows that particle soot causes health problems at even lower levels than previously believed. See the new EPA material at http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=151826 or let us know if you need a copy.

As you may recall, EPA based its December 2005 proposal on scientific studies completed through 2004. But the scientific evidence keeps rolling in. In fact, hundreds of new studies have been completed in the past two years. And this new compilation of more recent studies underscores that particle soot is a very big public health problem.

Among the key conclusions of this new EPA scientific review: newer studies show health effects from particle soot at lower levels of exposure; the projected death toll from long-term exposure to fine particle soot is larger than previously seen; larger “coarse” particles harm the ability of children to breathe at lower levels of exposure than EPA’s proposal. And the studies also show that reducing pollution improves health. In other words, this isn’t just theory.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

An example of a dying art: real journalism

A quick note here to point out an excellent example of a dying art: real journalism!

All too often these days, reporters at big newspapers or broadcast networks simply repeat what they are told by the government or other powerful entities.

In this case, the writer (from Cox News Service in DC) actually delved beneath the superficial baloney.

In this story, which appears in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he did a good job pointing out that a local Georgia witness before a Senate committee basically made up stuff about pollution coming from Africa – and that her senator, Johnny Isakson, just repeated the fiction. All of it part of an effort to apply political pressure to prevent the US EPA from setting air pollution standards that would actually prevent us from dropping dead so quickly.


**

EPA pressured on dirty air standard

Jeff Nesmith - Cox Washington Bureau
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Washington --- Bebe Heiskell says she doesn't know the origin of the soot and dust that has her northwest Georgia county on the environmental hot seat.

She thinks some of it may be coming from Alaska and some from Africa.

"Sixty percent of it's not coming from here," Heiskell, the lone commissioner of Walker County, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Walker County was classified as a "nonattainment" county last year by the Environmental Protection Agency because of high levels of dust and soot.

The classification restricts federal grants for highway construction and, equally important in Heiskell's view, frightens off new industry.

Heiskell testified last week before a Senate committee hearing on an upcoming EPA decision to set new limits for "fine particle" air pollution standards.

Walker isn't the only Georgia county with soot trouble. Around the state, 28 counties did not meet the EPA's standard in 2005, including a majority of metro counties.

The federal agency, which proposed last year to leave the annual average limits unchanged, is under federal court order to make a final decision by Sept. 27.

Under the rule it has proposed, the air in a county could have an annual average concentration of fine particles no greater than 15 micrograms (or millionths of a gram) per cubic meter of air, the same limit set under the Clinton administration in 1997.

Allowable daily averages would be reduced from 65 micrograms to 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

Jobs vs. health

EPA has been under pressure from environmental and health groups to set stiffer standards when it adopts the final rule.

On the other side are industries and officials in places like Walker County and its next-door neighbor, Catoosa County, who say an annual standard any more stringent would cost jobs.
They are supported in Congress by Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and others.

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental organization, said two sets of hearings on the issue by Inhofe's Senate Environment and Public Works Committee were "designed to apply political pressure to the EPA" to weaken the final standards.

EPA's own scientists and organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Sierra Club and numerous national, state and local groups have charged that EPA's proposed standard would leave uncorrected air conditions that cause thousands of deaths per year in America.
Fine particles are bits of dust and soot that are no more than 2.5-millionths of a meter in diameter. Most of this pollution comes from industry smokestacks and the exhausts of automobiles, scientists say.

'Outside influences'

The north end of Walker County touches the southern city limits of Chattanooga and the west side runs along the Alabama line.

Ignored by designers of the interstate highway system and reeling from decades of industrial decline, it has little vehicle traffic or industrial pollution, Heiskell said.

"Walker County's nonattainment status is almost exclusively due to outside influences on our air quality, including up to 60 percent ... transported from Alaska, Canada and, amazingly, Africa," she testified during last week's hearing.

She added in the interview Wednesday that none of the dust pollution appears to originate in Atlanta because some of the counties between Walker County and Atlanta have not been declared in "nonattainment."

"I don't know what I'm going to do," she said. "My hands are tied. I don't know what to do."
She said the county hired Atlanta atmospheric chemist Craig Smith two years ago to try to find out where the pollution was coming from.

Smith said EPA's nonattainment decision would have gone the other way if agency officials had not counted 10 days in 2002 and 2003 when the level of dust in Walker County "spiked" unaccountably.

He reasoned --- in a report rejected by EPA --- that particulates on those days resulted from fires in Kansas, Canada, Arkansas and Alaska.

It's not clear where Heiskell heard that some of Walker County's pollution might have drifted over from Africa. Smith said that was not part of his report.

Even so, Isakson said Wednesday that Walker County is "the recipient of pollution from another continent."

"We're punishing the wrong person," he added.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Developments as DC gasps under a "code red" alert

As you know, much of the nation, including the DC area, is gasping under various “code red” alerts for today. If President Bush were an environmentalist, perhaps he would be overheard saying “What they need to do is get EPA to tell those polluters to stop doing this s…..”

Without that, however, we are stuck with the facts, which include:

** Tomorrow morning’s Senate hearing, in which Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) will try to pressure the EPA to prevent the agency from setting tougher national health standards for particle soot. Inhofe has sought to stack the panel with “scientists” outside the mainstream, including power industry consultant Anne Smith and former veterinarian Roger McClellan. (McClellan, one of EPA’s outside science advisers, was way out of step with his colleagues. He was one of only two, out of 22, who dissented with their recommendation that EPA set better standards.)

**Our 1 pm briefing tomorrow, in which we will explore the science from a public health perspective sadly lacking from Senator Inhofe. http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=69349
**And now comes word that EPA scientists may suggest tougher standards for yet another pollutant – ozone, or smog – the very item that is plaguing our lungs today. EPA has just published part of its new staff assessment of the issue. See at
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/data/o3sp2d_chs_1-5_7-8_20060718.pdf

What they left OUT of this assessment was the key chapter – Chapter 6, in which the EPA career staffers are supposed to make their recommendations as to whether the existing smog standards are tough enough.

However, we do understand that EPA is going to tell us, via a press release, the staff is considering recommendation that would, at least on paper, include the possibility of a tougher new national standard.

But watch out for the fine print! What we won’t know until we see the details is if it’s REALLY a recommendation to make the standard tougher – as we think EPA should – or whether it might include loopholes that could actually weaken current standards (for example, by permitting more dirty-air “mulligans” each year.)

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 17, 2006

EPA notes smog alerts and advisories in more than 50 cities

High Ozone levels prompt Air Quality Action Days, alerts and advisories in over 50 cities.

http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.DisplayStory&myItemID=1244&StoryType=3

July 17: Air Quality Action Days have been declared in areas of the following States: CA, CO, CT, IN, IL, KY, OH. PA, MA, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TN, TX and VA.

Ozone pollution, also known as ground-level ozone, forms when pollutants from sources such as cars, power plants and industries "cook" in the sun. This common pollutant can affect everyone, but some groups of people are more vulnerable to ozone's effects. They include: children who are active outdoors; people with lung diseases, including asthma; and healthy adults of all ages who exercise or work vigorously outside.

Cities with Action Days/Alerts/Advisories Today's Forecast Local Action Day Programs

Action days are usually called when the AQI gets into the unhealthy ranges. Different air pollution control agencies call them at different levels. In some places, action days are called when the AQI is forecast to be Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, or Code Orange. In this case, the groups that are sensitive to the pollutant should reduce exposure by reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. For ozone this includes:children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with lung disease, such as asthma. For particle pollution this includes: people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children. Occasionally, an action day is declared when the AQI is Moderate, or Code Yellow, if the levels are expected to approach Code Orange levels.
In many places, action days are called when the AQI is forecast to be Unhealthy, or Code Red. In this case, everyone should reduce exposure to air pollution, but especially the members of the sensitive group for the particular pollutant.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Koch Industries defends anti-regulatory zealot Dudley

In today's Wichita (KS) Eagle, Koch Industries defends its financial support of the Mercatus Center, the "think tank" that employs Susan Dudley, said to be in line to become White House regulatory czarina.

More at http://cleanairarticles.blogspot.com/

It seems like only yesterday (in was in 2000) that the US Justice Deparment was noting that:

Koch Industries Inc., will pay the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under any federal environmental law to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states, the Justice Department and the U.S. EPA announced. A settlement filed today requires Koch, the second-largest privately held company in the United States, to pay a $30 million civil penalty, improve its leak-prevention programs and spend $5 million on environmental projects.“This record civil penalty sends a clear message to those who transport hazardous materials: You cannot endanger public health or the environment,” said Attorney General Janet Reno. “We will not let you foul our water and spoil our land by breaking the law.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Republican senators pressure EPA on clean air standards

In case you missed it, there was an ugly scene today before the Senate subcommittee on clean air, chaired by Senator George Voinovich (R-OH).

It is the latest chapter in what has become a clash between science and politics when it comes to clean air standards.

Voinovich and four of his Republican colleagues (Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kit Bond of Missouri, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Johnny Isakson of Georgia) launched an aggressive attack against any plan by the U.S. EPA to set tougher national air pollution standards for particle soot. Two Democratic senators (Tom Carper of Delaware and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey) argued, conversely, that air pollution was harmful and that EPA should set standards based on the best science

As you recall, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson has been criticized by many scientists and doctors (including the American Medical Association) for proposing new standards that were weaker than recommended by his career scientists and EPA’s outside science advisers. With a little more than two months left before Johnson has to announce a final decision, there are hints that he might be amenable to tougher final standards, perhaps within the upper range of that recommended by the agency’s outside advisers.

Voinovich and colleagues made it clear that they would have none of it. In a transparent and seemingly partisan attempt to apply political pressure to EPA, they argued that EPA should make no change at all to the current standards, set in 1997. They stacked witness panels largely with those who agreed with their anti-clean air views.

Inhofe plans a follow-up hearing next Wednesday, July 19, to increase the pressure of the political squeeze.

Here are a few very quick highlights from today’s soap opera, played out before a room teaming with power company lobbyists who appeared to alternate between checking their Blackberrys and listening to see if questions they had drafted were being asked:

Voinovich: “Here we go again: EPA has proposed to move the goal posts.” [The lobbyists – obviously football fans – must really have wanted this message point in there, since it was repeated by Inhofe, DeMint and Isakson.] Arguing that clean-air controls have boosted energy costs, “Every time I go home, people are screaming about their gas costs… [this has] a devastating impact on the ordinary citizen…[tougher clean air standards] “will push us into more use of natural gas.”

Voinovich also displayed a map that he conceded had been created by the American Petroleum Institute to argue his point that tougher EPA standards would require more parts of the nation to clean up.

“Maybe it’s cheaper to buy everyone an air conditioner” than reduce pollution, he said.

Inhofe: “I do not believe the science justifies ratcheting down the standards.” [Remember, this is the guy who says global warming is a “hoax.”]

Bond: “As someone who suffers from asthma, I can tell you it’s not the air, it’s the food.”

DeMint: Clean air standards “reduce our quality of life.”

Isakson: “We’re punishing the victim of second-hand pollution.” [We’ll let logicians puzzle that one out.] “No one in this room is for asthma.”

Two of the witnesses made arguments that these senators appeared not to want to hear. Conrad Schneider with the Clean Air Task Force said 10,000 fewer premature deaths a year could be avoided if Congress or EPA required tougher limits on sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Schneider argued for tougher controls on power plants and diesel engines.

John Paul of the Dayton, Ohio, air pollution control authority argued for an honest, scientific process for setting national air standards since “the public deserves to know whether the air they breathe is safe.”

One thing is clear: these Senate Republicans appear to hope that political pressure will help fend off calls for EPA to use the best science in setting particle soot standards.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Storm clouds: White House eyes anti-regulatory zealot, while Ohio senator gloomily looms

The Washington Post “In the Loop”

I Am OMB and I Write the Rules
By Al Kamen

Wednesday, July 12, 2006; Page A13

Worried enviros say the Bush administration is about ready to announce its pick to head the Office of Management and Budget's powerful regulatory office and the front-runner is Susan Dudley , director of the regulatory studies program at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

Dudley would head the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which approves all environmental, health and safety and other government regulations.

Dudley, who has worked at the OMB and at the Environmental Protection Agency, would succeed John D. Graham , the cost-benefit champion who left in October. Graham also served as an adviser to Mercatus, the staunchly anti-regulatory center funded largely by Koch Industries Inc., the oil and gas company and mega-GOP contributor. Charles G. Koch and another top Koch official serve on the nine-member Mercatus board of directors.

Dudley would seem to be the obvious successor to continue the administration's anti-regulatory policies. After all, in the early days of President Bush's first term, when the OMB asked for public input on which regulations should be revised or killed, Mercatus submitted 44 of the 71 proposals the OMB received. And the OMB approved 15 of them, the National Journal reported at the time.

These recommendations critiqued onerous regulations such as a proposed Interior Department rule prohibiting snowmobiles in Rocky Mountain National Park, a Transportation Department rule limiting truckers' hours behind the wheel, and that silly EPA rule limiting the amount of arsenic in drinking water. (Hey! You don't want it? Don't drink it.)...

Some enviros are already pining for the days of John Graham, whose nomination they bitterly opposed. Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch called Dudley "a true anti-regulatory zealot" who "makes John Graham look like Ralph Nader."

Well, that's what elections are all about.

**
Voinovich wants EPA to weight costs, benefits of air regulations

11 July 2006Platts Commodity News

A key US lawmaker said Tuesday that he may introduce legislation to require the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct cost-benefit analyses before strengthening its national air-quality standards.

Senator George Voinovich, Republican-Ohio, said such a requirement is needed to prevent EPA from setting overly stringent standards and hurting the economy. Voinovich's interest in the subject is notable because he chairs a Senate subcommittee that has jurisdiction over EPA's air office.

EPA is currently under court order to review its air-quality standards for particulate matter or "soot" and ozone or "smog." Tightening either of these standards could heap new regulatory requirements and additional costs on power plants and other components of the energy industry.

The Supreme Court previously ruled that EPA cannot consider costs when deciding how stringent to set its air-quality standards.

... Voinovich made it clear that he would be extremely troubled if EPA moves to tighten either its PM or ozone standard. Voinovich previously sponsored legislation that would have required EPA to conduct cost-benefit analyses, but no such bill ever passed Congress.

Environmental groups were dismayed when told that Voinovich was once again considering such legislation. "We would consider that a direct attack on the Clean Air Act," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch.

Voinovich may say more about the matter Thursday, when he holds a hearing on air-quality standards in his Environment and Public Works subcommittee on clean air, climate change and nuclear safety.

Monday, July 10, 2006

News notes: will EPA tighten particle soot standards? An all-star game eco-surprise, and more...

A few items of possible interest as southern Ohio faces a “code orange” forecast for fine-particle soot (http://airnow.gov/) while one of its political leaders seems intent on retarding progress towards truly healthful air quality. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Note this and other items below.


Soot summit: As you will recall, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson has taken a lot of grief for proposing new national air pollution standards for particle soot that were weaker than recommended by EPA’s own scientists and outside science advisers. Is that criticism finally taking a toll? Johnson has scheduled a meeting this Wednesday, July 12, with some key scientists who have urged to agency to take a tougher stance. Among those scheduled to meet with Johnson: George Thurston of New York University Medical Center and Dr. William Rom of the American Thoracic Society and co-author of a medical journal editorial which blasted Johnson’s “lax” proposal. Johnson is under a court order to come up with a final plan by September. Stay tuned.

Polluter pressure: A different sort of attempt to sway Johnson will play out the next day (Thursday, July 13) as Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), stout defender of Ohio’s power companies and other industries, holds a hearing on the subject before his Senate Subcommittee on air pollution. This hearing appears to be a not-very-subtle attempt to send a message to the White House: Voinovich doesn’t want EPA to set tougher air standards. As noted above, many of his constituents are breathing dirty air as he wades into battle on behalf of industry. And the oil and dirty electric power industry are already lobbying to change the Clean Air Act to limit EPA’s ability to toughen air standards in the future. This hearing also may be an attempt to lay the groundwork for that sort of pro-polluter position.

Smog study: EPA’s career staffers are also evaluating possible changes to national health standards for ozone, or smog. Some insight to their thinking may come as soon as this week as they release an assessment of the science. Watch this space: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ozone/s_o3_cr_sp.html for updates.

Government gas: Speaking of the EPA, you may have seen the agency’s release Friday which extolled the potential virtues of advanced (IGCC) technology to convert coal to gas – a process that makes it easier to trap and confine greenhouse gases. Our friends at NRDC have a more technical description of this process at www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/solutions .

Do you wonder, as I do, why the government refuses to require this sort of technology at all new coal-burning power plants? Or at the very least set some limits that would actually help translate the potential of this technology into reality? Yes, it is more expensive than regular coal burning. But more regular coal burning also means more global warming pollution, despite all the b-s about “voluntary” efforts. The government itself projects carbon dioxide emissions will go up a lot, unless we actually do something to require limits.

Arctic Ecosystems: This week the American Meteorological Society continues a series of seminars on the impacts of global warming. This week it will examine the effects of climate change on Arctic ecosystems. Friday, July 14, 2006, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm. Location: Russell Senate Office Building, Room 428a, Washington, DC. For more information please contact: Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D. (202) 737-9006, ext. 412

Outside the Beltway: If you didn’t see it, Greenwire ran a fascinating piece last week on the effort by the Entergy Power Company to oppose the Bush administration’s asleep-at-the-switch position on global warming. Entergy is seeking to join a lawsuit by state attorneys general and environmental groups against the Bush administration.

All-star attitude: One of the most interesting things to watch is the continuing efforts by the government of Pennsylvania to show that environmental improvement can also improve the economy. In a state with a real reactionary history on the environment, it has been very progressive on everything from cleaner cars to mercury pollution control. And we hear another effort will be unveiled tomorrow at the baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. Don’t forget to tune in.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Smog Watch 2006: Smog was up in June

Here are some details on smog episodes this summer across the U.S. These results are unofficial and are based on a survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers of public websites.States that have had monitored readings in 2005 above federal health standards include, in alphabetical order:

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
DC
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
MarylandMassachusetts
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin

The survey found 1037 monitored exceedances of the 8-hr standard in June 2006, compared to about 950 in June 2005 and 329 in June 2004. (June 2004 was cooler and rainier in much of the nation, and the rain washed out much of the pollution.)

San Bernardino, California appears to have the most frequent smog problem so far in 2006 (28 days at one monitor). San Bernardino also has the dubious distinction of registering the single highest smog level though other very high levels have been registered in such places as Harris County in Texas and Dekalb County in Georgia.

Some notable "nature" spots with smog problems so far this year:

Yosemite National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Great Smokies National Park
Sequoia National Park
Pinnacles National Monument
Death Valley National Park
Petrified Forest National Park
Botanical Gardens (Bronx, New York)
Woodland Dunes Nature Center (Wisconsin)
Baytown Wetlands Center (Texas)
Seney National Wildlife Refuge (Michigan)